A couple of weeks after the last Fight Club: Pro show (which you can buy here for the stupidly low price of £4), it was my birthday and I was in the pub, slightly tipsy, going on and on about wrestling, to people who could not care less, but it was my birthday, so fuck them they’re going to hear about Trent Seven’s lovely, perfect face.
“I don’t understand the appeal of wrestling, Hazz” said Lisa, my tiny ninja friend, “no offense” she finished, as if she’d just made a remark about my body odour, which is flawless.
“Oh, I’ll make you like it” I said, with a weird menace in my voice.
“Er, I mean, you would like it. It has attractive people doing horrible, wonderful things to each other. Fuck it, come to the next FC:P show, I’ll buy you a ticket, worse that happens is you have to spend a few hours in Wolverhampton.”
“Okay!” she said, in her bouncy, positive Lisa voice which I’m pretty sure she uses for everything, so I’m not sure if she’s genuinely excited or is mentally trying to construct a web of lies and excuses to pull out.
I drink more beer and go on again about wrestling. No one cares.
3 weeks later and we’re in the car to Wolverhampton for FC:P’s The Beginning of the End show. I decide to kill time and see just how little she knows about wrestling.
“Okay, Lise, name me five wrestlers.”
“Er. Hulk Hogan.”
Easy, every knows the Hulkster.
Nice, good pull.
“Randy Savage… is Randy Savage the Macho Man?”
“Yes, that doesn’t count.”
“Damnit. Erm… the lady. With the muscles. I think she’s dead?”
“Yes! Oh, poor thing.”
“3 out of 5, come on.”
An agonising few minutes pass as the wife tries not to hit the talkative wrestling nerd who is distracting her while she’s trying to drive. I give her a gentle pat on the head, she’s not amused.
Eventually Lisa remembers John Cena.
“4 out of 5 isn’t bad. So, have you ever actually watched a wrestling match?”
“I think so, when I was younger. My brother would watch, and he’d talk about it with his friends, and they’d talk about it really seriously, like they thought it was real.”
We then have The Talk about wrestling, where she asks if it’s fake, and I explain that no, it’s not fake, it’s just pre-determined, because that’s the cool, hipster way of describing wrestling now. You can read more about that in my wrestling article for The Guardian’s Contributoria paper that no one ever read.
Talking about something being fake in wrestling is difficult, WWE in particular is in a weird place where their obviously “fake” flagship TV shows, Raw and Smackdown, are a lot more real than the “reality” shows they produce, such as Tough Enough and Total Divas. The latter being tightly controlled, overly produced faux-reality bollocks, while the former is insane, comic book theatre where real life issues can bleed into the script, where one slip can lead to a real life injury, where fake cereals named after a bottom becomes a real life thing you can put into your mouth.
We talk about how wrestling is produced, how it’s written like any other form of entertainment, and I explain how wrestling is like a medium unto itself and there are lots and lots of genres. The wrestling we’re going to see tonight will have some laughs, probably some blood and a lot of people getting their fucking face kicked off. I gush about the story going into Travis Banks vs Sami Callihan, about how much painful fun Trent Seven vs Tommy End will be, about how ace it’s going to be to see the first FC:P women’s match between Nixon Newell and Jessicka Havok. We run down the card and she’s genuinely excited, which is relieving, because I didn’t want to shun her forever or superkick her back to Billesley.
Then the show happened.
It was oppressively warm, but still thrilling.
I’ll not go into too much detail about the show, as you should definitely grab the DVD and/or VOD when it’s available. I will say that the I Quit match had a great ending, unlike any I Quit match I can think of, and Travis Banks stole the show for the second time in a row. There were beautiful scenes at the end of the beast of a match between Trent Seven and Tommy End. Thanking the crowd, Tommy went around and hugged every one of us (I’ve still not washed my shirt) after his final FC:P appearance. It was everything that is perfect about wrestling and I was glad Lisa got to see it.
So what did Lisa think?
“It was funnier than I was expecting it to be. And not in a ‘Ha, this is dumb, I’m laughing at it’ kind of way, but more tongue in cheek, it’s okay to laugh at this kind of way.
“When I wasn’t being awestruck by the things that they could do with their own (and each other’s) bodies, I was happy to notice not a single person had their phone out, filming/taking pictures/tweeting while the wrestling was happening. Everyone was joining in, chanting, laughing, just being in the moment and I love that. It felt like a pantomime, but a really angry, sweaty pantomime where jacked, handsome bearded men (and ladies – Ed) beat the crap out of each other for a few awesome hours!”
I was over the moon that she enjoyed herself and even happier when she revealed she’d bought us tickets for the show on 21 October (which you can buy tickets for here, from the low, low price of £10).
“You’ve created a monster, Hazz.”
If only she knew. There’s a recurring thought amongst wrestling fans that wrestling isn’t and won’t ever be as popular as it was in the late 1990s. What they really mean is that WWE won’t be as popular as it was in the late 1990s (forgetting it’s barely been four months since the biggest WrestleMania of all time). Wrestling, though? Wrestling is fucking huge! ICW is selling 6,000 seats per show in Scotland. Progress are doing shows in the US. Chikara are doing annual tours of the UK. Dozens of promotions from across the world are offering their shows on demand. There’s Lucha Underground, which is redefining what televised wrestling can be, and there’s NJPW World offering some of the best wrestling on the planet for just 999 Yen, Maggle.
The UK is just bursting with talent at the moment, especially in the Midlands, I’m spoilt for choice. We’ve come a long way from the shows I went to as a kid, that were mostly made of tired US imports and featured meaningless, often terrible matches (one show I saw as a teenage Hazz featured a ladder match where someone went for a pin and the ref counted).
Fight Club: Pro has everything I love about pro wrestling and the atmosphere is perfect for a new fan. There isn’t a massive roster, you don’t have five hours (minimum) of TV to watch a week, just simple, consistent storytelling and some fantastic wrestling. Find your own Lisa, bring them to your local show, and see if you can convert someone else, because wrestling is brilliant and it’s fun to call Chris Brookes a wanker.